Flyers Faithful asked Travis Hughes from SB Nation and Broad Street Hockey, Matt P. From The 700 Level, Mark Trible from The Checking Line and our very own Pavialax five questions about the playoffs. We are very grateful that they took the time to share their opinions and predictions with us. Each day of this week, we will run the answers to one of those questions. Today’s question is:
Travis Hughes: There will certainly be more focus on them, and that comes with the territory. So with that in mind, the level of success they have will come from the level of success of the other lines. If teams have to focus more energy on the other two lines, then obviously, HBL will get more opportunities. If the other lines falter, the Flyers are an easy team to stop. …. but that’s the beauty of the depth this team has, the chances of everybody running cold at the same time are very, very slim, right?
Matt P: The great part about the current Flyers team is that opponents can’t focus on any one line. Overall, the Briere line has yet to return to its pre-All-Star Game glory, but I expect they’ll be a potent playoff line once again. The hope is that most defense corps don’t have the depth to handle the minutes that the top three lines will get over a full series, nor the depth at forward lines to be able to counter each set of Flyer attackers. As dangerous as the Briere line can be, the team’s leading goal scorer and points leader are both on another line that must be accounted for, along with the JVR-Richie-Versteeg line, which could boast three 20+ goal scorers by the time the playoffs start.
To repeat the success of last postseason, the line will have to find a way to get the lightning back into the bottle. Heading into those playoffs, no one expected them to go off like that. The line is at its best when Briere can get the puck behind the net, Hartnell can camp out in front or crash in a little bit more physically (toeing the line between a physical screen and goalie interference), and Leino can be creative with the puck while not getting too fancy in traffic. Leino does his best work from the slot, Hartnell getting garbage goals off of rebounds or passes in front, and Briere from his office just next to the crease.
Mark Trible: My train of thought with the Daniel Briere line is the same as it was when the line was dominating play in the playoffs and earlier this season. Mainly, I feel like the line hinges on Scott Hartnell. With Ville Leino, the line has a forward that holds onto the puck coupled with great vision. He sets the table for the other two wingers.
At this point, we know what to expect from Briere. He’s a player that scores in bunches and the playoffs have been mighty kind to him. With his skilled marksmanship, if he can find space to operate he will succeed. Hartnell is the only player of the three that doesn’t have a clearly-defined role. When he plays with energy, the chances of scoring grow exponentially for his line. When he doesn’t, the line is rendered useless as opposing defenses can dedicated more attention to taking away Briere and Leino’s space. The key to the line repeating their success is Hartnell’s energy and willingness to do the dirty work for the other two forwards.
Pavialax: If opponents do focus in on 19-48-22, they will do it at their own detriment. The beauty of this team’s makeup is the ability to roll 3 dangerous scoring lines and, while not a huge scoring threat, the 4th line can and should command respect from opponents as well. There are 10 players that have 10+ goals and there is the potential to have 8 players with 20+ goals before the end of the regular season.
To repeat their success, Hartnell needs to continue be a net presence; Leino needs to be stronger on the puck when moving through traffic and Briere needs to continue creating opportunities right around the net. I’ve been to a few Flyers games this season and love that Briere will gather a pile of pucks in the waning minutes of warm-ups to work on chipping the puck in the net from the area right around the goal.